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Top 10 Intelligence Agencies of the world – Interesting facts & Top 10 lists

Intelligence agencies have always been a crucial arm of governments. Countries rely on their intelligence agencies for collection of information about their enemies as furthering their own interest. The budgets of the agencies are massive and largely kept away from public scrutiny & sometimes there whole administrative set up as well. The recruitment methods are also highly conspicuous and a large number of operatives come from the defense background. They have at times also subjected domestic citizens to clandestine surveillance, so let’s get to the top 10 entities of the espionage world.

10. DGSE, France


The General Directorate for External Security (DGSE) of France was founded in 1982 to gather intelligence from foreign sources to assist in military and strategic decisions. DGSE is thought to have prevented more than 15 terrorist attacks in France since 9/11 according to reports. The agency is thought to have network of around 5000 agents spread across France and the world. DGSE is also said to rely on a huge force of voluntary correspondents (spies), who though not on the still provide human intelligence. The DGSE’s greatest claim to fame was is from the early 1980s, when they uncovered a Soviet spy network that allowed the USSR to gather information about important Western technological advances without the knowledge of Western intelligence agencies. It’s remains the most extensive technological spy network ever uncovered in Europe and the United States.



The Australian secret Intelligence Service was created as the external intelligence agency of Australia in 1952 with the aim of gathering intelligence about, and counters intelligence operations. It is infamous for a botched training mission in 1983 in The Sheraton hotel in Melbourne allegedly involving excessive use of force & poor planning. It was so covert that its existence was hidden from its own Parliament for over twenty years. The Australian government recently passed a controversial bill allowing ASIS to collaborate with other organizations like the CIA in special operations, provided ASIS agents were not directly involved. ASIS has also been in the spotlight for some sensational exposes, including one in 1994 win which the agency was said to be secretly holding thousands of secret files on ordinary Australian citizens.

8. RAW


RAW was founded in 1968 with the aim of countering Pakistani support of militant groups within India, but over the years it said to have gained significant involvement in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, and elsewhere. The foreign intelligence service of the Indian republic, unlike most Western agencies, is installed as a wing of the federal cabinet and is not answerable to the Indian Parliament in any way. Its chief directly reports to the Prime Minister and its operations do not come under the purview of Parliament. The RAW had midwifed the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.The agency is headquartered in New Delhi. RAW is said to have engaged more than eight thousand field agents spread across the world.

7. ISI


Sometimes described as a country within a country with virtually no restraints, ISI is best known for the firm control it exercises over Pakistan’s politics and its role in protecting the military from domestic opposition. Whether spreading anti-Indian propaganda in Kashmir or funding Sikh separatists in Punjab, the ISI has consistently been behind trouble in India for decades. India has accused the ISI of involvement in dozens of terrorist attacks over the years, including the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 that killed over 195 people with David Headley giving information about his links with ISI to American prosecutors. At the same time, the ISI has worked with the U.S. and allies to combat terrorist groups such as the Haqqani network inside Pakistan. The ISI was also thought to have given safe passage to Osama Bin laden through Pakistan.

6. BND


The Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Federal Intelligence Service in English, is Germany’s foreign intelligence agency that alerts the German government about threats to its interests. The main tactic employed by it is electronic surveillance & interception of international communications. BND agents are spread across the world & estimated to be around 4000.The annual budget of the BND is said to be in excess of 430,000,000 Euros. The BND had drawn criticism for wiretapping and surveillance of journalists. During the Iraq war, the BND came to the aid of the CIA when two German agents in Baghdad obtained a copy of Saddam Hussein’s plan to defend the Iraqi capital, which was passed to American commanders one month before the invasion.

5. SVR


After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the once formidable KGB was cleaved into several smaller organizations with vastly restricted powers.Russian spying within the United States is now back to Cold War levels, U.S. officials believe. SVR is widely suspected to have played a role in the assassination of ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko in London last year. The SVR was also thought to have a hand in the assassination of former Chechen President Zelimkhan Abdumuslimovich Yandarbiyev who was accused of having links to Al-Qaeda by Russia and the United Nations. He was assassinated when a bomb tore through his SUV in the Qatari capital of Doha.

4. MSS


The Ministry of State Security (MSS) is one of the most powerful Chinese intelligence agencies. Its main objective is to protect the Communist Party of China & neutralise any threats to the sovereignty of China. The modus operandi of MSS is unique too – its most successful spies are agents stationed throughout the world posing as ordinary citizens. Its overseas activities are believed to be centered around on the United States, In particular its technology industries and military technology. The MSS gathers intelligence on new weapons systems painstakingly over time through personal contacts. They are said to collect little bits and pieces and put it together. Sources often don’t realize they are being harvested by a foreign spy mission, and the thousands of Chinese citizens who travel as diplomats, students, and business people to these countries every year provide effective cover. The agency is also notorious for waging cyber warfare against major nations. In 2007, China was accused of hacking into U.S. Defence Department databases. The governments of India and Britain have made similar accusations.

3. MI6


After major budget cuts during the relatively peaceful following the Cold War, Her Majesty’s secret service was caught napping in the war on terror. After 9/11, MI6 has gone to the extent of placing ads in online spy-themed computer games such as Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. At one point of time in the Cold War era, undercover recruiters handpicked out of Oxford and Cambridge graduates for intelligence work. MI6 has faced great criticism back home for allegedly participating in CIA-organized torture of terrorism suspects. Officials from Russia have also accused MI6 of trying to influence Russian domestic politics.

2. CIA


The Central Intelligence Agency is known to play a pivotal role in helping the US maintain its status as the world’s sole super power. It has always played a great role in furtherance on the United States economic and political objectives. The CIA has also been playing a central role in exchange of intelligence between countries to combat global terrorism. The involvement of the CIA in attempts to destabilise governments have also been discovered, as in the case of Cuba and the 1953 Iranian coup d’état. The annual budget of the CIA is said to be around 13.7 billion USD as of 2013. The CIA was most active during the cold-war era when its considerable resources were instrumental in the creation of an Islamic militia with the aid of the ISI to fight against the soviets in Afghanistan.



The De-Facto leader of the espionage world,Mossad , meaning Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, is the national intelligence agency of Israel. The modus operandi of Mossad is its high professional skill and clockwork precision of its operations. It is feared and revered for having carried out difficult operations in almost all major countries, both hostile & friendly. In 1960, Mossad got to know that Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann was living in under the pseudonym Robert Klement in Argentina, which a history of refusing to deport Nazi War Criminals. He was captured, smuggled to Israel, tried and executed. Mossad had played a major role in Operation Entebbe, a hostage-rescue mission carried out by commandos of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) at Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976 to rescue kidnapped Israelis. The assassination of those responsible for f the 1972 Munich Olympics killings, and of a senior Hamas leader with an exploding cell phone in 1996, bears testimony to its reach and professional acumen. The Mossad has also assisted Jewish refugees who seek to immigrate to Israel, including the airlifting of thousands of Ethiopian Jews as part of Operation Moses in 1984. Reports indicate that the Mossad may have had either an agent or an informant at the Syrian military installation that Israel bombed in September 2007.